The fear of falling

Baby's first steps outside

My daughter Inaya was yet to take her first steps, and instead chose to hold onto whatever piece of furniture or available hand to help keep her upright as she learned to find her balance. I wish I could say that I was patient with her progress as time passed and she seemed in no hurry to step out on her own, but as she grew towards the later stages of when babies are expected to walk, I was eager for her to reach that milestone…

I would take her to activity groups where it seemed like babies half her size were running around, while she would happily explore on all fours. Watching on, I realised that she was actually afraid of falling. When there was an opportunity for her to step out on her own and try to walk, she would immediately return to her safety net of crawling.

I drifted between reminding myself that every child is different and that my daughter would walk when she was ready, to feeling like I needed to do more to encourage her to practice.

This went on for what felt like years – okay I’m being dramatic… but that’s what impatience does to you! Finally the day came where my daughter took her very first steps, but what was interesting was how she took them. Inaya loves music, and has done since she was born. She was watching one of her music videos at the time, and she was standing near me for support in the middle of the floor. I decided to stand her up and let go to see what would happen, as her full attention was on the music. As I gradually let go and encouraged her to find her balance, it just happened! She took her steps and fell… and she was okay. I helped her back onto her feet, and she tried again and fell again. We did this a few times, but I noticed how from that moment her confidence bloomed. She could fall and still be okay.

This experience is such a vivid memory in my mind – not just because it was the moment my daughter took her first steps, but because it taught me some important lessons in how we handle our own fears as adults committed in a marital relationship:

Impatience highlights your own insecurities

Despite my impatience, Inaya was only going to walk when she was ready. My impatience didn’t speed up her process, but instead it showed me areas that I needed to spend time with personally to prevent me projecting my insecurities onto my child in future. We all do it, and often without even thinking. But what if there was no way of you measuring your child up to anything other than your own parental instinct? You would probably be more likely to be content with the fact that they are thriving, happy and healthy, whatever that looks like. When we add in a measuring stick, anxieties will soon follow as to whether our child is “on track”. That’s not to say that it’s not important to look after your child and check that they are meeting their milestones, especially as babies, but what I am saying is that when milestones become a point of obsession or even negatively impacts your treatment of your child then you have a problem.

Fear is not limited to physically falling

There are many who will say that they have a fear of heights because they are afraid of falling, but the fear of falling isn’t exclusive to a physical fall. In marriage, we may be afraid of “falling out of love” with our spouse, or we might have a fear of falling into addictive habits. We could have a fear of falling off of our career ladder, or maybe we are afraid of falling apart if we stop long enough to actually ask ourselves how we feel in our marriage right now. To fall is to fail… or so we think.

When we don’t allow ourselves the room to be human and acknowledge our weaknesses and mistakes, we end up slowly suffocating ourselves while still managing to wear a smile.

The impatience of others only makes matters worse, and in a society where most people are time-poor, it can be hard to be seen as the one having an “off” day. When you are stretched between parenthood, work, being a proactive spouse and looking after you too, even the most organised of individuals would need a breather. Your fear of falling more than likely points to a root issue that you are yet to deal with. The thought of digging through your fears can be scary in and of itself, but it is necessary for you to make genuine progress and prevent your fears from placing limitations on your life.

Sometimes you need to just listen to the music

When my daughter was distracted by something she loved, the fear literally seemed to just melt away. In that moment, it was as though she could do anything as long as the music was playing! It was amazing to see this up close, as she would revert back to a place of uncertainty whenever the music stopped and she tried to walk. Before long, she didn’t need the music, and now we are chasing behind her and I’m looking back at impatient Juliette and shaking my head! The days when she was yet to walk seem like years ago now! But I share this to say, that sometimes we just need to find that thing that brings us a true sense of passion and purpose.

To do those things that take us to a place where we feel like our fears can’t influence us, and instead we can begin to do everything that we have talked ourselves out of doing.

To have that conversation with our spouse and share our struggles. To leave that job that is making us miserable. To experience that first counselling session. To speak to that friend who we miss and we’ve lost touch with. To be a stay at home mum or dad because you want to commit your time to raising your children. To listen to the music – your music.

Only you get to decide the kind of life that you go on to lead. In marriage, your life directly impacts another life that you have joined together with. If you choose to have children, then both of your lives will directly impact a little life or lives to come. It all starts and ends with you, and this isn’t something to be taken lightly. There is only so much help your spouse can offer, and until you decide to take responsibility for your own life including any fears that are currently cornering you into destructive patterns, you can’t expect anything to improve in your marriage. That applies to both of you.

I was saddened to see the story last month about the Mauritius oil spill. Yet again, nature was left suffering at the hands of pollution due to this accident caused by man.

This uniquely biodiversity-rich marine ecosystem – one of the few left on Earth – has been polluted by nearly 1,000 tonnes of fuel oil. Marine biologists say that is enough to create long term consequences for the entire marine life – from coral reefs, to mangroves to endangered animals and birds.

-Source, BBC

This tragedy is a fitting analogy of what happens when we allow our fears to “pollute” our marriage and our family life. There will always be long term consequences, but we get to decide what kind of impact those consequences will go on to have. Think of it as being less about removing your fears, and instead about replacing your fears with courage. If there is anything that my daughter has taught me, and that I have learned in my own experience of falling, it is that learning to get back up after falling leads to a greater sense of confidence, compassion and plenty of courage to do the things that you never thought you would be able to do.

YOUR THOUGHTS

What fears do you have that may be influencing your decisions (or lack of) on a daily basis? Ask yourself the following questions to help you begin to unpack this, and consider ways that you can uncover the root of those fears to help you move forward. Whether that involves opening up to your spouse, a trusted friend, or a professional – life is far too short to live in fear:

  1. What would you do differently today if your fears were non-existent?
  2. How might your fears be affecting your marriage right now?
  3. What are your strengths?
  4. What stories do you need to stop telling yourself that feed your fears?
  5. List any fears you are aware of, and next to each fear write down what you hope to happen instead of that fear coming true…

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